Lentils Market Development
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By Delaney Seiferling

It is plant-based, flavourful, and very convenient to cook with. The best part – it is lentil-based.

Moroccan Style Lentil Burger Mix, created by Nestlé Professional® was a main highlight at the exclusive Menu Directions conference, an annual event that brings together some of the largest non-commercial food operators in the United States (U.S.), including high-volume facilities such as schools, colleges and universities, healthcare facilities, and corporate dining operations.

Saskatchewan Pulse Growers’ (SPG) Director of Marketing & Communications Amber Johnson was in attendance at the event to help Nestlé Professional® promote the new product.

Figure 1. Moroccan Style Lentil Burger Mix used in a vegan burger patty, a blended patty with 50% beef, and used to make crispy falafel.

Targeting the foodservice sector in North America is part of SPG’s strategy to have new markets or uses for 25% of Canadian pulses by 2025, as it has the ability to drive high volume consumption of lentils under normal conditions. Supporting the development and promotion of new and innovative products such as the Moroccan Style Lentil Burger Mix is another important component of the strategy, Johnson says.

Many U.S.-based non-commercial food operators are already interested in using lentils, as they are a low-cost and high protein ingredient, but do not have access to value-add products that fit into their back-of- house operations.

“Simply put, few operators have the skilled labour and capacity to scratch-cook full menus, so these versatile and labour-saving products are key to furthering penetration in this segment,” Johnson says.

“There is a real need for these types of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook products for the non-commercial segment.”

Products that are already cooked, prepared, and well-seasoned allow for consistency and time/labour saving while still being able to offer healthy and delicious plant-forward menu offerings, Johnson says.

While in attendance at the Menu Directions conference, Johnson was also able to deliver a breakout session and garner feedback about the Moroccan Style Lentil Burger Mix, which was positive, she says.

“I heard that it was not only an adaptable product but one that would open doors to incorporating more plants across the menu. Also it tasted great and was well seasoned, eliminating the need to do much else besides shaping and re-heating it,” she says.

The next step in getting this product into more non-commercial food operations will be letting chefs try out the product in their own kitchens, Johnson says. Many of the chefs she met expressed interest in doing so.

To help facilitate this, Nestlé Professional® will send samples of the product to interested parties upon request. Colleges and universities that are involved with the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, which SPG is also a supporter of, will also receive samples to experiment with. From there the hope is that interest and use becomes broader, Johnson says.

Figure 2. Corporate Chef James preparing sample bites for conference attendees at the event’s opening reception.

In the meantime, SPG plans to continue to work with partners such as Nestlé Professional® to support and promote the development of innovative products specifically designed to meet the needs of non- commercial food operators, Johnson says.

“A key piece of our strategy moving forward is working with manufacturers and supply chains distributing to foodservice, to increase the amount and breadth of lentil product options available.”

Published April 2020

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